Whether you CrossFit or not, kettlebells are everywhere. And if you’re new to CrossFit, spoiler alert: You’re going to be using them a lot. While they have a variety of applications, the one you’ll see most in your WODs is the basic Kettlebell Swing, in one of two versions, “American” or “Russian.” Both will help you build your overall body strength, power, balance and cardiovascular stamina. Form is key on this one, and new or experienced, it can slip if you are fatigued or distracted. So a quick review of the basics:
First: Choose the right weight for YOU. If it’s too heavy, form will suffer and injuries can occur. Resist the urge to grab the heaviest one you can pick up. Or the lightest.
Get Ready: Stand with the kettlebell in between your feet, which should be hip width apart, and your chest tall with shoulders pulled back and down.
Load Up: Once you squat down to pick up your kettlebell, you’ll wrap your thumb around the handle with palms facing your body. Stand up tall.
Loosen Up: Your arms should be straight but loose. Your knees should be soft. With your weight in your heels you’ll hinge forward at your hips pushing your butt back. Shins should remain vertical and your abs tight.
Drive: Use your hips and tight core to help drive that kettlebell up and in front of you. You should not be using the strength in your arms to push it up. It really is all in your hips! Stopping at eye level is a Russian swing while continuing overhead is American. Be sure your arms are extended with full control over the kettlebell.
Work With, Not Against, Gravity: As the kettlebell comes down, allow gravity to assist so you can recover for the next rep. Shift your weight back into your heels, and hinge at the hips while engaging hamstrings and glutes. Allow the kettlebell to fall in between your legs but NOT below your knees. Stay in control by keeping your body and mind engaged.
Continue to use the momentum in your hips for the remainder of your swings. If you are feeling pressure in your back, you need to lower your weight and/or check your form.
Common faults for kettlebell swings include rounding the back, and squatting rather than hinging at the hips. One more time: Use your hips! That is where you will find your power. The kettlebell has a number of effective uses but the swing is one worth perfecting. Have fun and swing away!